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Shabé yaldā - Persian Winter Solstice Celebration

Leyla Shams
December 20, 2018

(photo above by

No matter where in the world you are, tomorrow night (December 21st) is the longest night of the year - the winter solstice, or as we call it in the Persian language, shabé yaldā.

means rebirth of the sun, and it's a night to celebrate the victory of light over darkness. In so many cultures, celebrations are concentrated in the winter time, because this is when we as humans need to get together the most. It's dark outside, seasonal depression is at the highest, and it's cold, making it so easy to stay home and be swallowed by loneliness. So in the west, we have Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, all times to come together, light some sparkly lights, eat good food, and laugh with family and friends.

Yaldā is very much the same- it's the longest night of the year, so it's a way to celebrate having made it so far- it's only going to get better from here!

Things to do to celebrate yaldā tomorrow night:

  1. Light candles - yaldā is an ancient Zoroastrian holiday, so fire and light is a big theme in the celebration, both best represented by cozy candles.
  2. Make a spread of food and drinks - this includes soup like ashé reshté, wintery fruits such as citruses and pomegranates, lots of nuts, wine and of course, endless chāi! In addition, Iranians generally save a watermelon from the summer to eat during this night, to remind them that summer will come once again.
  3. Stay up as late as possible and tell all the stories and make all the music - yaldā is about community, and it's important to gather all generations of family and friends to tell stories of past, present and future. Music is also a big part of these gatherings, either recorded or played live by guests.
  4. Read all the poems - poetry is a big part of the night, and the poems you read on this night will set the tone for the rest of the year. Don't know many good Persian poems? This poem by Rumi would be a perfect one to share with all your family and friends!

And that's it! Hopefully you'll have a chance to get some friends together and celebrate tomorrow night- and if you do, reply and tell us all about it!

shabé yaldā mobārak,

the Chai and Conversation team